In just 30 seconds, you can enjoyably consume a viral video or a few Facebook stories. But until now, the shortest thing you could typically listen to was a three minute song, especially when you factor in the time to get your headphones untangled, on, and playing. Hearing anything shorter was more trouble than it was worth.
Yet with wireless earbuds going mainstream thanks to the unveiling of Apple’s AirPods, we’re poised to see an explosion of shorter audio content consumption and creation.
First, it will become much easier to consume short snippets of audio during the in-between moments of life, similar to how we consume visual content today. Waiting in line at the coffee shop, during pauses between public interactions, or whenever we have a spare couple seconds, many of us reach for our phones. We pop open our favorite apps like Twitter or Imgur, and relax with a few scrolls or swipes.
Wireless earbuds unlock this behavior for audio. Without the wires getting in the way, we’ll be more likely to leave them in our ears so they’re at the ready. We could listen to a page or even just a few lines of an audio book or make a little progress on a podcast whenever the opportunity arises.
Longer-term, wireless earbuds that we still take out could be the bridge towards an (essentially) always-in audio technology. With that future in mind, I believe we’ll see shorter-form audio content start to be purposefully created.
Five-minute YouTube clips seemed brief when they first emerged on desktop, but soon enough, mobile gave rise to six-second clips on Vine and social videos optimized for Facebook that catch your eye in the first three seconds as you scroll by. Perhaps AirPods and their contemporaries will usher in a similar shift in audio creation.
Imagine stand-up comedians boiling routines down to snackable one-liners, or playlists that sequence the best short jokes to fill your wireless buds. Apps designed to read you summaries of news articles would grow more ubiquitous. Authors might divide their works into shorter chapters. We could see more mini-songs like the twenty three-second Beatles track “Her Majesty”. And asynchronous voice clip messaging might replace some our daily texting.
Down the line, simpler interaction with Siri and other apps through voice commands could emerge as the core value of AirPods. Right now, voice recognition is still a bit spotty. As it improves and we grow to rely on voice interfaces, more interactive short-form audio content could take off. If there’s one company I’d trust to build a device that essentially lives in my ear all the time, it’s Apple.
Until we all shift to wireless, Apple ditching the iPhone’s headphone jack may actually make quick audio consumption tougher for some people as they fiddle with Lightning connector dongles for their old headphones. But once we ditch the cords, we can look forward to a new generation of snappy sonic entertainment whispering in our ears.